Boldy James brings new Trapper’s Alley tape to Shelter
Boldy James is headed back to Trapper’s Alley.
The Detroit rapper’s first mixtape, in 2011, was named after the multi-story Greektown mall that rose in the 1980s. The mall was a failure, but James’ mixtape wasn’t, introducing listeners to his harsh, cold style that’s often compared to Mobb Deep’s Prodigy.
James’ new mixtape, which he’ll toast with a release party Friday at the Shelter, is a sequel to the project, and carries the name “Trapper’s Alley 2: Risk vs. Reward (The Brictionary).”
“Now that I’ve got everybody’s eyes and ears and more attention on my music, I’ve got a reason to make something to keep their attention,” says James, on the phone last week from Baltimore, where he was on tour opening for Royce da 5’9” and DJ Premier’s joint project PRhyme. “I had to go back to the roots, and I took it back to ‘Trapper’s Alley’ because that’s like my ‘Illmatic,’ that’s like my Purple Tape. I had to go back to the drawing board, so this is like a fresh start for me.”
It’s fitting that James mentions Nas’ “Illmatic” when name-checking other artists’ influential first releases: Last year, James signed a deal with Nas’ Mass Appeal Records, who will distribute James’ work going forward.
James — real name James Jones — was signed to New York-based hip-hop boutique label Decon Records before it was absorbed by Mass Appeal. He looks at the Nas partnership as a business venture.
“If I meet my dates and my requirements, I will probably never hear much about anything business-wise,” he says. “As long as I’m on top of my (game), I don’t see a reason why we won’t continue to do business in the future. I’ve just gotta handle my business, because they’re on their job. So I can’t complain. It’s all good in my world, baby.”
James, 32, was raised in Detroit and grew up in the streets, drinking and selling drugs at an early age. He ran away from home at age 11, spending years sleeping in cars and abandoned houses and getting locked up. His rhymes reflect his cold reality, and are told in a blunt monotone that make “gloom” sound sunny.
His first breakthroughs in music came when he appeared on a 2009 mixtape by The Cool Kids — the duo’s Mount Clemens-raised Chuck Inglish is James’ cousin — and he took off from there. He’s released several mixtapes, and his debut album “My 1st Chemistry Set” was released in 2013.
Now that the father of six — he’s got four boys and two girls, ages 17 to 3 — is poised for bigger things, he’s taking it in stride.
“This is a dream come true,” he says. “I’m not filthy rich, but just to be removed from the ghetto and be able to travel and see other cities, other states and how they rock, how they get down, I get to appreciate the simple things in life.
“I have these freedoms: being able to open up the refrigerator, jumping in my car whenever I like. I’ve been through some humbling situations, so I’m just chillin’,” he says. “I don’t get full of myself or too big for my britches. I just take everything as is, and I accept it for what it is.”
7 p.m. Friday
The Shelter, 431 E. Congress St., Detroit
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